new releases

Mercury Rising (15) 111 mins were

As The Onion Field, Sea Of Love and City Hall all testify, Harold Becker is a filmmaker who always rises above the given material, infusing the most generic scenario with

realistic detail, textured performances and emotional complexity.

This potentially routine thriller is a case in point. That it could survive its risible premise is remarkable in itself: a nine-year-old autistic child inadvertently cracks the world's most sophisticated encryption code, after two of its military programmers post it in a puzzle book, to test 'the nerd factor' - the possibility that some freak out there possesses the genius to render two billion dollars’ worth of software development worthless. That it could then reprise the bog- standard, 'alienated cop and vulnerable boy on the run from just about everyone' plot and still hold our interest is little short of miraculous.

Full credit, then, to the ever- dependable Willis and child actor Miko Hughes, whose thankless role leaves him trapped inside the character's head and repetitive

physical gestures for the entire film. A renowned actors' director, Becker draws the best from both leads, by paralleling the burnt-out Willis's alienation from the FBI's world of duplicity and deceit with the autistic boy's alienation from the outside world in general.

Lumbered with a two-dimensional ’bad guy' part, Alec Baldwin over-plays his role as the National Security agent prepared to do anything to safeguard the code, the safety of his men in the field and, not least of all, his own career. Watch out, too, for Kim Dickens who, after her eye-catching role in Less Than Zero, confirms her potential with a nicely judged portrayal of an

Train of thought: Sandrine Bonnaire in Secret Defence

Secret Defense l 70 mins ‘:5-.' 14’s "5:"

In conversation some years ago wrth the French critic Serge Daney, Jacques Rivette pondered the issue of film length. With the world movrng ever faster, he believed rt was art cinema’s purpose to slow the world down. Thrs is exactly what Rrvette has been dorng for much of his 40-year career, in films which have rarely been less than three hours long and have occaSronally run to thirteen.

He remains ti-est l;.'",r.'..'\ l‘e'v '7 ' relatively short work, La .t, where he told a Balzat stir": it .rr“: turned the stealth of -' ° r r. burn psychologitai [Ellipt‘sw "(4 (lie-s much the same mth the it‘i'l'w' 'itsnrt: in Secret Defense the gerrrr replaced by deeply entrent hed ll”. tine

Sandrine Bonnarre isn't the roost Irker thriller heroine she's a researth SCientist liVing in a spacious Parisian apartment, apparently too :n'xolverl in her own life to worry about anybody else's That begins to Change when her

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The heat is on: Bruce Willis and Miko Hughes in Mercury Rising

independent single woman, dragged willy-nilly into Willis’s dangerous, paranoia~inducing world.

Although there's nothing new here, in terms of storyline, there is pleasure to be had from the sheer quality of the acting, the economical direction and the crisp, hard-edged beauty of Michael Seresin's photography. Whether that's enough to sustain your interest depends on how much you value character development and credible human behaviour over senseless gunplay, routine car chases and random explosions. (Nigel Floyd)

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new releases FILM Buffalo 66

(15) 110 mins were

Billy Brown (Vincent Gallo) has an eriuable enough name, but he is an anguished and self-obsessed person. Hrs misery is so unappealing that he has no friends except a mentally retarded bOy named Goon (Kevrn Corriganl His life is so awful A— the film begins as he is released from prison »— that he retonstriirts himself from lies

Billy meets Layla «Christina Ricci) when he passes through her tap- dancrng class in search of a urinal. Later, he kidnaps her because he needs a ‘wife' to take back to meet his parents, Layla plays along With him, apparently because her own lrfe lacks any meaning whatsoever, and the two travel to the home of Billy’s folks (Anjelrca Huston and Ben Ga7zara). Here, it beromes agonismgly Clear that they don't love their son and Layla finds herself genuinely moved by Billy's suffering As the full title of the film says, Buffalo 66 is 'a love story‘

There is little to smile about in the film, though writer/(lirettor Gallo has a black sense of humour and finds absurdity in the lives of the film's lo\.-.Ier-(.lass American characters: Billy's rrrother, for example, is obsessed With the Buffaloes football team to the point of madness

But the unbearable, self-delu ling Billy l'-, aTvrays on the screen, baring his twisted soul Gaflo's aim is to excavate hint and - through rift exploration of the ltt?f;lt?(i he has suffered - reveal that the way he as stems from his pain, flour/here ‘ift‘ Billy's self-titty, meanness a'd urthaz‘piness stornt‘rri, while Layla's l(;‘.‘~;: (“~.’t‘l‘lt.‘;lll“,’ proves that there tould be another, Raider Billy, if only he could feel himself loved lt betomes clear that Buffalo 66 is a deeply life— (illlfll‘lllfl filrn

A hugely talented tast, which intludes t.‘rit'l<ey Rourke and Rosanna Arouette in cameo roles, helps keep Buffalo 66 from getting too narrow, and CllflSlllia thtr proves that a good actre s tan be creative even when her part rs sparse. This remains a diffirult and sornetrines pretentious film, but it is pocrerfull‘; lf".'~.‘tlr(lll‘.t} too iHan'tah Res"

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Love will find a way: Vincent Galo in Buffalo 66


are w: -.~'.- Unmissabte 5 a .+. a 2 Very good i .2: 2:: ~5- wOrth a shot

Below average 5 You’ve been warned

24 Sep-B ea l998 THE LIST 23